China’s approach to transport policy has been based on detailed analysis of existing trends, extrapolation of future needs and planning to meet these needs: the so called ‘predict and provide’ approach typical of the developed world. In the UK, the 1998 transport White Paper recognised that this approach does not work for road transport and moved to “management of existing roads before building new ones”. This is based on the understanding that the more roads you build the more traffic you create. It is now being suggested that this new management approach has worked to some degree and that the UK is becoming saturated or perhaps even peaking before a decline.
Given the environmental, social and economic challenges now facing transport policy makers, we need to move away from ‘predict and provide’ for all powered transport. For this we will need new priorities. As a new city, Shenzhen should be pushing the boundaries and developing groundbreaking sustainable approaches to urban development and transportation.
The UK Department for Transport’s Guidance on Transport Assessment recommends the first step should always be “reducing the need to travel, especially by car”. The Highway’s Agency recommends that capacity enhancements should be a “last resort” while Dalkmann and Brannigan recommend a three-level “avoid-shift-improve” model to prioritise carbon reduction measures.
The Sustainable Development Commission first proposed an overarching hierarchical approach to transport policy in their consultation response to the Department for Transport’s Delivering a Sustainable Transport System consultation (2009) and again to inform in the Smarter Moves report (2010). This describes the four stages in more detail. The hierarchy is intended as a simple tool which can be used at all levels of transport policy making to structure thinking in generating and prioritising solutions.
Reduce the need for powered transport
This can be achieved through a wide range of measures from good spatial planning through to technological solutions such as telecommuting. If some of these measures result in increased demand for walking and cycling this should be viewed positively.
Modal shift to more sustainable and space efficient modes:
a) Shifting away from motorised modes to cycling and walking,
b) Shifting from private motor vehicles to public transport,
Includes better integration between different public transport systems, walking and cycling.
Efficiency improvements to existing modes:
a) Behavioural changes: including encouraging higher occupancy rates for both private vehicles (e.g. lift sharing) and public transport; promotion of car clubs; promotion of eco-driving techniques; incentives to spread demand peaks on public transport etc,
b) Technical interventions to improve vehicle efficiency – prioritising public transport efficiency improvements over private vehicles,
c) Technical interventions to promote more efficient use of transport infrastructure and networks.
Capacity Increases for powered transport
Capacity increases should only be considered once the first three steps have been fully explored. Any capacity increases that are required should be prioritised to the most efficient and sustainable modes.